WrightBower - The Journey So Far.. August 23 2015
Factory circa 1983
Born and raised in Manchester, England, Michael has had a varied and interesting career path. Not the typical route of a fashion student Michael embarked on reading sciences at university. It was only after working in the hustle and bustle of London he realised his passion lay elsewhere. So he returned to Manchester and joined the family's bag manufacturing business in 1991.
Showroom circa 1980.
It was during this time that the long standing factory MPLG Ltd, which was established in 1976 and manufactured handbags and sportsbags, took a turn in the direction of leather goods manufacturing. During the 1980s and 90s cheaper imported products from the Far East resulted in the closure of most of the UK's textile and apparel industry. Michael realised there was a gap in the market and took the gamble to change the current factory setting where they manufactured mainly textile products to a factory producing luxury leather goods. The gamble was worth the risk as MPLG Ltd is now one of the few remaining factories in the UK capable of volume manufacturing premium quality leather bags and wallets.
The transformation required massive changes in all areas of the factory. A team of highly skilled workers had to be trained up and equiped to meet the exacting demands of an international customer base. It was during this time that factories in the UK were closing down and moving their production overseas. The rise of China as the workshop of the world seemed spell the end of the British textile industry. Ironically, it was the financial crash of 2008 and subsequent recession which signalled the renaissance of manufacturing in the UK. Costs and margins came under intense pressure. Local production suddenly became more attractive.
With well made leather goods in high demand and consumers now wanting to know more about where their products were made, designers were spending more time and effort finding the right British manufacturer to work with instead of relying on overseas factories. This where Michael was able to showcase the talents of his team and factory.
Michael was now able to use his experience and the expertise of his team to take the next step that he had always wanted to of designing a range of bags and wallets under his own brandname - WrightBower.
When asked he will describe himself as "a manufacturer who designs". To Michael this is a crucial difference. The new Linteum range is a good example where he wanted to combine British hardwood with traditional bag materials. A great deal of technical development was required to perfect the final component shapes that were right for the overall design and also the manufacturing processes to make them.
The true love of design and craftsmanship is evident throughout the factory, from the employee’s kind hospitality to their passion for producing nothing but the best. This is evident when Michael speaks warmly about his team and the process it takes to bring the WrightBower products to life; “It’s so personal when you turn an idea into reality. For me it’s an evolutionary process. I like to start with the design idea and the materials I want use. Then together with the staff in the factory we develop the optimal version in terms of form, function and manufacturing processes.”
When asked about his brand Michael states that he “wanted to produce a range of bags that was unique and of the highest possible quality in terms of materials and workmanship but which was still accessible in terms of price.”
The name behind his brand was something quite close to his heart and something that resonates through his company; the name itself is his mother’s maiden name, proof that it really is a family orientated business and brand. It serves as a reminder of the origins of the factory that his parents established in 1976.
With the brand's grounding in traditional craftsmanship and respect for natural materials it is no surprise that Michael's inspiration comes from the Arts and Crafts movement of the early twentieth century. He is also a firm admirer of Charles Rennie Mackintosh a very talented architect and designer of this period.
Furniture by Charles Rennie Macintosh
The incorporation of British ash and walnut hardwoods into Michael's designs is now a signature of the brand but there are many new developments to come.
Going forward both WrightBower and the factory are projects that will preserve and develop manufacturing skills in the UK. There is a real passion and drive to develop new products and the new talent to make them become a reality.